The young green dragon Venomfang poses several challenges to DMs. The first challenge is developing Venomfang’s motivations–what does a green dragon like Venomfang want? The second challenge is playing Venomfang intelligently: As a creature with a 16 intelligence who is practised in weaving layers of deception, how can we lie convincingly to our PCs so that they believe what he’s saying? The third and final challenge is dealing with the possibility of a TPK (either finding ways to prevent one or dealing with the consequences of one), as this is one of the most likely places in the whole module where the party could bite the big one.
Green Dragon Temperament
In order to answer these questions it’s important to get an idea of just what motivates green dragons and what separates them from other dragons.
Corruptors of the Virtuous and Masters of Deceit
While all chromatic dragons are vain, evil, and covetous creatures, each type of chromatic dragon has a different temperament, and green dragons are no exception.
For green dragons, wealth is measured by influence. A green dragon would love nothing more than to gain leverage with high officials of government and force them to cater to their will. The preferred form of this leverage is through deceit or blackmail but a green dragon may also make use of cruder methods like threats and coercion. While green dragons are happy to turn anyone into their personal slave, they particularly enjoy forcing or deceiving the pure of heart to do evil deeds. For green dragons, the world is essentially their chessboard and one of their main joys in life is to collect more and more pawns to do their bidding.
Because green dragons often rely on others to do their dirty work, they can be viewed as “lazy.” Green dragons, however, would likely prefer to think of themselves as patient. For example: if an enemy has wronged a green dragon, and should the outcome of a confrontation with that enemy be less than certain, the dragon would prefer to wait years or even decades for more favorable circumstances. During this time, they are calmly stacking the deck against their enemies.
Should a green dragon be at the losing end of an encounter, they will attempt to parley. As Keith Ammann says in his article about chromatic dragon tactics:
As soon as [a green dragon] is moderately wounded, it will stop fighting and parley, making full use of its proficiency in Deception, Insight and Persuasion (skills no other type of chromatic dragon is proficient in) to keep itself alive. It will even surrender, albeit on terms favorable to itself, and always with an eye toward any opportunity to turn against its new “masters.”1
The Lost Mines Module mentions that Venomfang has moved into the the wizard’s tower since the last time Reidoth the Druid was there.2. Also, considering that Venomfang has just started laying waste to the resident giant spider population, we can assume that he has arrived within the last month or so.
We could deduce a couple of reasons for Venomfang’s recent arrival. Either he was kicked out of the nest unceremoniously by his parents (there’s conflicting sources as to whether green dragons are good parents, I believe canonically they are not), or he was driven out by an enemy. Some possible enemy candidates are:
- Cryovain, the White Dragon of Icespire Hold: This idea has been suggested by several commenters in the Lost Mines of Phandelver Facebook Group. Cryovain and Icespire Hold are creations of the D&D Essentials Kit, a module which provides a whole bunch of side quest type adventures around Phandalin. Even if you don’t have the essentials kit, it wouldn’t take much to homebrew a young white dragon in a keep in the Sword Mountains vs. a Green Dragon near the southern end of Neverwinter Wood. This makes for an interesting contrast between dragons, since whites are more primal and less intelligent, while Green dragons are the craftiest of all chromatic dragons.
- A relative of Venomfang: There is an excellent, excellent reddit post (like seriously really good) about how to run the Venomfang encounter that suggests Venomfang should lie about a half-sister determined to capture his lair after having been wounded by adventurers. There’s no reason, however, that this can’t be a real sibling rivalry. I like the idea that the relationship between green dragon siblings is a deadly one, and that green dragon parents raise their young in a “survival of the fittest” fashion.
- Hill Giants: While doing research for this article, one of the best videos I found on Green Dragon lore mentioned that Hill Giants and Green Dragons are natural enemies. Apparently, green dragon babies are considered a delicacy among Hill Giants. I imagine that this could extend to older dragons as well. Perhaps a party of Hill Giants tried to hunt Venomfang down for food. This may make for a good segue into Storm King’s Thunder or another Giant related adventure.
- A Fey Being: Thundertree already feels feywild-esque and thus it feels appropriate that perhaps a fey being of moderate to great power has interests there. One possible idea includes a stronger/smarter than normal boggle-like creature (boggles are fey creatures born out of feelings of loneliness and loss–feelings that certainly pervade Thundertree). This arch-boggle wants to increase the feelings of loneliness around Thundertree and all the recent activity generated by Venomfang, Reidoth, and the Cultists jeopardize this fey creature’s prospects of creating the perfect garden of loss. Venomfang may understand that there is a fey presence in Thundertree, and is keeping his eye out for it. I’ll likely put out another article to flesh out the fey angle further.
Venomfang and Thundertree
While it has been suggested that Thundertree is more of a temporary lair because it’s not located in a deep forest, to me it seems like an ideal spot for the young green dragon. The ash that had settled into the town after the eruption of Mt. Hotenow has the unsettling properties of corrupting anything it touches–animating corpses and causing the very plant life to lash out against those who may trespass here. Apparently, the eruption and the ash was the byproduct of a godlike fire primordial‘s anger at being awakened from a long slumber. The corruption in Thundertree is essentially a manifestation of this anger. More ancient and powerful green dragons than Venomfang have the power of causing a very similar sort of corruption by their very presence, so Venomfang must feel right at home here. Furthermore, the wizard’s tower overlooking the rest of the town allows the dragon to keep an eye on any interlopers who may venture nearby.
Venomfang’s Stalemate with Reidoth
Venomfang is loathe to give up a promising new lair. Unfortunately for him, however, a meddling old druid by the name of Reidoth has settled in a cottage at the Eastern end of Thundertree. This frustrates Venomfang’s plans to quietly recover from whatever drove him from his previous lair and plan revenge. At the moment, they seem to be at a stalemate, with one warily watching the other and waiting until one of them lets their guard down. Venomfang knows that it’s unwise to attack a spellcaster whose power has yet to be determined, and so he has kept an eye on Reidoth to see what he does. Reidoth, likewise, knows that Green dragons can be the most treacherous and dangerous of all dragons and hasn’t yet made a move on the wizard’s tower because of this.
Venomfang’s Ambivalence toward the Cultists
To oversimplify things, you can break down cultist motivation into three camps:
- Worship and adulation of chromatic dragons and Tiamat, their goddess
- Desire for power by forging alliances with dragons
- Both 1 and 2.
Since Favric, the leader of the cultist group, is “an evil and ambitious man”3 it’s fun to think of him as a member of the second camp. The other cultists who don’t share Favric’s ambition are likely to be in the first camp. Of course, Favric would likely pretend to be in the first camp as well. While it may not change how the cultists interact with Venomfang, it’s worth noting.
While the cultists (Favric excluded) are worshipful of all chromatic dragons and wish to become servants of Venomfang, there’s nothing to suggest that Venomfang would ally himself with them. It’s true that in the Tyranny of Dragons module the cultists manage to recruit many chromatic dragons to do their bidding, but they do it by using legendary magical items called Dragon Masks. Favric, a low ranking member of the cult, possesses no such mask (and is likely not aware of their existence). He’s a bit full of himself, and thinks he can gain the allegiance of Venomfang through persuasion alone.
I imagine that Venomfang would be friendly to the cultists. After all, here’s some free minions that have plopped up on his doorstep. However, Venomfang may secretly be repulsed by these sycophants fawning over him. Should the party ask Venomfang about the cultists, Venomfang would likely share his true feelings about them.
As a green dragon, Venomfang knows that the party will regard it with a decent level of distrust. He knows that should any brash adventuring party stumble into Thundertree they will likely side with Reidoth against him. Thus his first goal is the sow falsehoods about Reidoth using a third party. To me, the best candidates for starting this smear campaign are members of the Zhentarim.
Venomfang and the Zhentarim
The Zhentarim are basically what you’d get if the mafia had been established by worshippers of a dark god of ambition and tyranny. Members of the Zhentarim tend to adhere to a “survival of the fittest” and “anything goes” attitude when it comes to advancing the personal ambition of its members. The only loyalty they have are to their own members, and even this loyalty is somewhat a facade. The only reason why members don’t often betray each other is because there are severe penalties (likely the worst kind of torture and death) for doing so.
The Zhentarim and the Cult of the Dragon are enemies (the former wants to control the world, the latter wants to destroy it). Given their mutual animosity, it wouldn’t be unusual that the Zhentarim would have a spy in the ranks of the Cult. Thus, whatever tipped the Cult off that Venomfang was in Thundertree could also have been picked up by a Zhentarim agent. To me, I feel like the Zhentarim are more organized would have sent an agent to meet with Venomfang before Favric and his friends could get their shit together.
Venomfang’s Smear Campaign Against Reidoth
The Zhentarim represent perfect allies to Venomfang. As a young green dragon that doesn’t have the ability to polymorph himself, Venomfang can’t infiltrate the ranks of Neverwintan society as he would like to. In exchange for Venomfang guaranteeing a safe smuggling route around Thundertree (Venomfang is free to eat non-Zhentarim who may pass through), Zhentarim agents agree to be Venomfang’s information channel to and from the civilized world.
Venomfang’s request to the Zhentarim is to spread misinformation that an evil druid named Reidoth has been spawning plant monsters throughout Thundertree. Apparently this is part of Reidoth’s effort to kill any would be hunters and lumberjacks attempting to exploit the natural wealth of Neverwinter Wood.
While the Zhentarim smear campaign against Reidoth would likely be focused in Neverwinter, Halia Thornton, the owner of the miner’s exchange in Phandalin and secret Zhentarim member, may be asked by her Zhentarim contacts to spread the rumors in Phandalin as well. I imagine a scene where the party manages to overhear an argument between Qelline Alderleaf (who has known Reidoth all her life) and one of Halia’s goons:
“All I’m saying is I heard that the old fool druid Reidoth has gone plum bonkers and has been raising plant monsters all around Neverwinter wood. My mate was out there with a couple woodcutters and barely escaped with their lives!”
“Ye got it all wrong! Reidoth might be a little strange a’ times, but there’s no way he’d harm a soul!”
Should the party venture north to Thundertree, they may encounter a Zhentarim spy in the guise of a hunter who warns them against venturing forward because of the evil druid Reidoth. This is the perfect place to drop clues that they are being deceived. For example, anyone proficient in Nature may notice that the fox pelts that the hunter is carrying is of a breed not native to Neverwinter Wood.
If the party insists that they want to go to Thundertree, the “hunter” suggests that they can meet a possible ally, a green dragon by the name of Venomfang (It may be good to change Venomfang’s name so that it’s less evil sounding and more draconic–something like Asverathmasil.) The hunter assures the party that although Asverathmasil is a green dragon, not all of them are evil.
When Venomfang meets the party, he can try to convince them that there is a corruption in Thundertree and Reidoth has become its servant. The only way to clear the corruption is to kill the druid. If the party doesn’t buy the story and Venomfang notices this, he may unleash the poison gas on the party right away.
Which leads us to our next question…how might we avoid a TPK with venomfang?
Avoiding a TPK with Venomfang (Or Not)
This became a rather long section, so I made a separate article for it: Avoiding a TPK with Venomfang (Or Not)
Other Venomfang/Green Dragon Content
Venomfang has inspired a lot of online content, perhaps more than any other NPC in the module, thus it would a disservice not to mention and summarize some of the best remixes I’ve found out there.
- Writeup by u/Brosequis on Reddit: The first comment on this reddit thread is one of the best writeups on Venomfang I’ve seen. Indeed I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from this for my own game. In addition to a useful synopsis of the natures of green dragons, this provides a lot of a sample dialogue (lies) that Venomfang may tell the party. It also provides a pretty convincing story about why Reidoth is not looking out for the good of the party.
- Tweaking Thundertree, or How I Built a Better Thundertree (LMoP) : In addition to providing some additional advice on how to run Thundertree as a whole, this reddit article provides a really interesting take on how to play Venomfang. In this example, Venomfang has already trapped Reidoth in a chest and has polymorphed herself so that the party thinks that she is Reidoth. Also, this article provides a stat block for Reidoth, which is super handy should the party manage to persuade Reidoth to join forces with them against the dragon.
- [VIDEO] What they Don’t Tell You About Green Dragons: One of the best resources online that I have found about green dragon lore. 100% worth the watch.
- [PDF] The Monster Harvester’s Handbook: Should the party manage to defeat Venomfang, this PDF provides a list of ingredients that the players can harvest from a young green dragon, as well as DC for extracting the various parts. Since some green dragon parts have a shelf life, it may help to jot down some notes for an apothecary in Neverwinter so that they can sell their harvest before it spoils.
How have you run the Venomfang encounter? Please feel free to share in the comments!
Looking for more? Check out other articles from the Lost Mines of Phandelver Guide!